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7 Running Myths Exposed

In these days of fake news, we fact check 7 common running myths. 

Myth 1

You'll improve if you run every day

Unless you’re an elite runner, going without rest days will not make you run any faster.  Research proves that the ideal number of running days for most people is 3-4.  The benefits of additional running tails off significantly if you run 5+ days a week. In addition, if you run every day you will significantly increase your risk of injuries. 

Myth 2

Only more running will make you faster

Another running myth is that only running will make you a faster runner.  In his excellent book “Run Less, Run Faster”  Bill Pierce outlines how, in numerous studies, runners who intersperse 3 quality runs (track repeats, a tempo run and the long run) with 2 aerobic cross training workouts (swimming, rowing or cycling etc) improve more than runners who stick exclusively to running.  

Myth 3

Always stretch before you run

There are many differing views on stretching so this is not an easy myth to dispel.  Current thinking is that runners should either do dynamic stretching before their run or a very slow warm-up jog. Dynamic stretches include squats, walking lunges, butt kicks, high knees and leg swings. Static stretching (i.e. stretching where you’re holding a single non-moving position from 10 to 20 seconds) should be avoided because muscles are not pliable and won't respond well to lengthening if they are cold. 

Myth 4

There's no need to stretch after you run

Those of us used to crashing on the sofa after a hard run, may be at risk of injury. This is particularly true if you have an area which feels tight after you finish running. This is the time for those static stretches because you have blood in your muscles and you can stretch them without risk of injury.  Classic static stretches include the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves. 

Myth 5

Eat a giant bowl of pasta the night before your marathon

In the eighties, it was commonplace to think that an enormous bowl of spaghetti Bolognese on the night before your marathon was the secret to your success.  In fact, this is likely to leave you feeling sluggish because you are unlikely to be able to digest it all in time.  These days research has shown that runners should start carb-loading 3-4 days before the race and only eat a moderate sized amount of carbs on the eve of the race.  Carbs are the fuel which creates glycogen.  As you start tapering in the days before a race, your body can start conserving glycogen stores. 

Myth 6

Take lots of gels on your long run or race

Heading out for a race or a long run with 3 or 4 gels?  Whilst gel manufacturers encourage frequent consumption (every 30 minutes), most runners don’t need this.  One gel every 45-60 minutes should suffice provided you stay hydrated.  Bear in mind most energy gels are also both full of sugar and bad for dental hygiene.  Obviously everyone is different and it’s worth experimenting in training before you use gels in a race. 

Myth 7

Real runners are fast

Our own subjective view is that you don’t need to be fast to be a real runner.  So long as you have 2 feet off the ground when you’re moving then you’re definitely running.  

It’s a pity when people stop racing because they feel they are not fast enough.  In fact, I have huge admiration for a runner who broke the magical 12-hour barrier for an Ironman over 2 decades ago and now regularly jogs the parkrun in over 30 minutes.  Don’t let your ego get in the way of your running!

7 Running Myths Exposed

Have we forgotten one of your favourite running myths?  Let us know at claire@iffleyroad.com. Thanks!